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Two Types of Eye Pain and When to See a Doctor

We love starting with good news! And the good news here is, while eye pain is common, it is rarely serious. In fact, there are mainly two types of eye pain, and when to see a doctor shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Two Types of Eye Pain

In general, eye pain is referred to as ophthalmalgia. From there, it depends on where the pain is. Pain on the surface of the eye is known as ocular pain. Pain within the eye is orbital pain.

Pain on the Eye

Ocular pain is what you may think of with surface pain. Typically, it’s a slight irritation caused by a foreign object. For example, dirt, makeup, an eyelash or a sty can all be to blame. Poor or improper contact lenses care can also lead to ocular pain.

Symptoms are usually mild with itchiness, redness and watery eyes.

After flushing the eyes, the situation is usually resolved. However, ocular pain can also be caused by infections such as pink eye. Again, your eyes may feel scratchy. They may itch, burn, water and have “eye boogers!”

Even though pink eye is rarely serious, it’s a good idea to see your eye care provider for proper treatment.

Pain in the Eye

Orbital pain is pain felt within the eye. For instance, glaucoma is a rise in eye pressure that causes pain in the eye. It can also trigger headaches, nausea and loss of vision.

Other conditions that lead to orbital pain include migraines, sinus infections, an inflammation of the iris, or possibly an infection around your optic nerve.

Finally, orbital pain can be caused by a penetrating eye injury.

When to See a Doctor

If you’ve experienced either of these types of eye pain, you might be wondering when to see a doctor. Of course, there are situations where you should see a doctor immediately. One, you experience a sudden or dramatic change in your vision. Two, there is so much pain it feels impossible to touch the eye.

Other symptoms that indicate it’s time to see the doctor include:

  • Eye pain with abdominal pain and/or vomiting.
  • Severe pain.
  • Eye pain due to trauma from exposure to a chemical or light.
  • Eye pain from a penetrating eye injury.


Circling back to the good news, most eye pain falls in the ocular, or surface irritation, category. It’s often treatable at home. But when in doubt, never hesitate to contact the eye experts at your local Mississippi Eye Care clinic.

If you are looking for additional eye health news or eye care tips, continue to peruse our blogs!